What do judges wear beneath their black robes? Mostly likely tie-dyed t-shirts, hemp belts, and peace symbols. For despite their seemingly conventionalist exterior, the music they cite in their legal opinions and briefs reveals they are a bunch of closet hippies:
No musician’s lyrics are more often cited than Dylan’s in court opinions and briefs, say legal experts who have chronicled the artist’s influence on today’s legal community. From U.S. Supreme Court rulings to law school courses, Dylan’s words are used to convey messages about the law and courts gone astray.
His signature protest songs, “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” gave voice and vocabulary to the antiwar and civil rights marches. His most powerful ballads, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “Hurricane,” have become models for legal storytelling and using music to make a point.
Dylan’s music and values have imprinted themselves on the justice system because his songs were the score playing during the formative years of the judges and lawyers now populating the nation’s courthouses, colleges and blue-chip law firms, says Michael Perlin, a New York Law School professor who has used Dylan lyrics as titles for at least 50 published law journal articles.
[ . . . ]
During a semester in 2007, Long combed legal databases to identify lyrics in court filings and scholarly publications, finding Dylan cited 186 times, far outpacing the rest of the top 10: the Beatles, 74; Bruce Springsteen, 69; Paul Simon, 59; Woody Guthrie, 43; the Rolling Stones, 39; the Grateful Dead, 32; Simon & Garfunkel, 30; Joni Mitchell, 28; and R.E.M., 27.
Is it any wonder that our judicial system is such a mess when we have Deadheads writing legal briefs?
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on firstthings.com.
Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.
Will you give today?